Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall in North-Iceland in extraordinary Basalt Column Settings
Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in Skjálfandafljót river in North-Iceland is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen in my country.
It has got a drop of 20 meters into a turbulent, icy cold pool and is set in such beautiful basalt columns, that the beauty just blows my mind. Aldeyjarfoss in the right light is the perfect photography location.
Top photo: Aldeyjarfoss as seen from the north bank
I am a big fan of both waterfalls and basalt columns, so I have put Aldeyjarfoss amongst my top 3 favourite waterfalls in Iceland. You know how some waterfalls look like bridal veils, but Aldeyjarfoss looks like a beautiful train of a bridal gown.
Aldeyjarfoss is off the beaten path in North-Iceland, so many people don't get a chance to visit it. But if you don't mind driving for 41 km one way into Bárðardalur valley from the main road then you will be rewarded with one of the most scenic waterfalls in Iceland.
Aldeyjarfoss drops from the ancient Báðardalshraun lava field, which flowed from an eruption some 9,000 years ago.
Beautiful basalt columns by Aldeyjarfoss
Here we are not far from my favourite place in Iceland, Mývatn, with all of its gems of nature - and where you will for sure feel like you have stepped into another world.
There are 2 roads leading to Aldeyjarfoss from Goðafoss by ring-road 1; roads 842 and 844. I took road 842, which turns into the mountain road F-26, up to the falls and returned back to Goðafoss on road 844 (which turns into road 843 after the big bridge connecting the two roads further up in Bárðadalur), as I wanted to explore all the 90 km of Bárðardalur valley!
Visiting Aldeyjarfoss from the south bank
I have visited Bárðardalur and Aldeyjarfoss in August and September when the gravel roads have been in ok condition, and during our first visit back in 2015 we drove up to the parking lot by the falls in our 2WD.
You have to open a gate that marks the boundaries between the normal road 842 and the mountain road F-26. Remember to close the gate behind you.
The road is a bumpy gravel road, which leads to Sprengisandur in the highlands, but the first part of it (4 km) leading to Aldeyjarfoss is relatively suitable for a 2WD in the summertime in my opinion, given that it hasn't rained a lot.
Bólstaður and Mýri farms
If you choose to leave your car by the gate and hike to the waterfall then I have read that the hike from the end of the road is something like 40 minutes.
The award-winning Icelandic film Hrútar (2015) was filmed at the two last farms by the gate, Bólstaður, and Mýri. You can see the farms in my photo above.
Hrútar is the Icelandic term for rams, and tells the story of two brothers living on farms side by side in a remote valley in Iceland - only they haven't spoken to each other for 40 years!
Warning signs of unbridged rivers if you travel up further than Aldeyjarfoss
If you follow the road further up than Aldeyjarfoss, you will need a 4x4 as this gravel road is the beginning of the Sprengisandur Highland Road. You will see 2 signs with "óbrúaðar ár" written on them. That means unbridged rivers to cross.
I went some 3.5 km further (5 minutes of driving) in the fall of 2018 when I finally bought a 4x4, as I wanted to see Hrafnabjargafoss waterfall. That waterfall is also well worth a visit as it is so close by, although the road leading down to it is merely a trail. I shot a short video of it:
Now back to Aldeyjarfoss :) From the parking lot for Aldeyjarfoss, a path will take you down a rocky hill for a better view of the waterfall. And from there you get the most marvellous view of this beautiful waterfall.
I have seen two different photos of girls in what looks like a hot tub opposite Aldeyjarfoss, but it is actually cold rainwater or meltwater that has accumulated in potholes (skessuketill) in the rock. It makes for a good photo but must have been a pretty cold experience for these girls.
By Aldeyjarfoss waterfall
Beautiful bent basalt columns form the backdrop of Aldeyjarfoss. The multi-coloured basalt columns here are so beautifully formed and symmetrical that they look like they are man-made. What an amazing masterpiece of the creator! To me, these settings are absolutely perfect :)
I have seen these basalt columns described as being black, but they are actually very colourful, from grey to brown to yellow to orange. In one place they form a beautiful basalt column cave, which looks like artwork.
Basalt columns by Aldeyjarfoss
Another waterfall set in basalt columns is Svartifoss waterfall in South-Iceland, where the basalt columns are quite black, giving Svartifoss - Black Fall its name!
And yet another waterfall set in basalt columns is the pretty little waterfall Litlanesfoss by Iceland's 3rd highest waterfall, Hengifoss. I am a huge fan of basalt columns and waterfalls, as you might have noticed ;)
Visiting Aldeyjarfoss from the north bank
I visited Aldeyjarfoss waterfall from both sides, the north bank first, where we were totally alone, and from there I got some of the most beautiful photos I have ever shot in my whole life.
From the north bank though you cannot see the whole round basin into which the waterfall drops and which makes Aldeyjarfoss so characteristic, so different photos can be shot from the south bank of the river.
The south bank is the official site, as it were, and several people were photographing the waterfall on that side. I showed you my visit to the south bank first as that is the side which everybody visits. From the north bank, there is a beautiful hike to the waterfall, whereas on the south bank you take a gravel path down to the waterfall.
On the hike to Aldeyjarfoss
It is really difficult to give road directions for the north bank of Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. You can see the route unclearly on Google maps. And this map on Já.is might help.
An explanation might sound something as complicated as this: "Turn right from road 843 to a road for the farm Stóratunga - signs say Stóratunga and Aldeyjarfoss. On this road, you pass Ullarfoss waterfall and cross the Svartá river on a bridge. Then you turn left on a road with a sign saying Aldeyjarfoss 2.4 km. A small gravel trail from that road - with a sign for Aldeyjarfoss - leads to a parking lot. You leave your car in the parking lot and follow a trail to the waterfall".
We kind of stumbled onto this road after being given directions by a local at Kiðagil.
The road to Aldeyjarfoss
Above you see the turn from the gravel road to Stóratunga farm. The sign says Aldeyjarfoss 2.4 km. From this road, you will have to be on the lookout for another sign and a trail leading to the parking lot.
From that parking lot, an approximately 18-minute easy hike takes you to Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. Along the way, you will cross at least two bridged creeks.
My husband running to see Aldeyjarfoss ;)
The hike is absolutely beautiful when the blue river comes into view, with an island and a basalt column rock in the middle of the powdery blue glacial river. Aldeyjarfoss - Aldey Island Fall - got its name from Aldey island.
I was in awe when Aldeyjarfoss waterfall finally appeared. The sun came out and lit up parts of the waterfall and I got tears in my eyes, I was so astounded by its sheer beauty and so happy that I was finally able to see this remote waterfall in my country with my own eyes :)
I just stood there for ages and felt a great love for all the wonders of my country. I had seen photos, which tourists visiting my country had posted but had never got the chance myself to see Aldeyjarfoss with my own eyes. And I know that many Icelanders have never laid their eyes on this beautiful waterfall. Sometimes visitors to our country see more of Iceland than we, who have lived here for our whole lives, ever do.
I walked further up to see the waterfall from above and get a better view of the powdery blue river. There was nobody on this side, so I guess I must have kind of ruined a few photos which people were taking from the south side - I am that white dot in many a photo of Aldeyjarfoss waterfall taken on that day ;)
People on the south bank of Skjálfandafljót river by Aldeyjarfoss
I explored the surroundings of Aldeyjarfoss and checked out the waterfall from above. I wanted to stay there forever - I am sure you have been to a place like this, where you just didn't want to leave, right?
We took a different route back and walked through a small fairy-tale valley, where I just wanted to camp and stay for a few days (not allowed though). It reminded me of Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur valley in parts - a little oasis in this ruggedly beautiful landscape.
The route back is so beautiful
My husband's family owns a summer cottage at Mývatn, very close to Bárðardalur, which gives us a great opportunity to explore the surrounding areas.
We returned that night to the cottage totally happy after such a beautiful day of exploring Bárðardalur valley and the waterfalls in Svartá and Skjálfandafljót rivers. What treasures there are to be found off the beaten path in Iceland!
On our way to Aldeyjarfoss on the north side of the falls, we passed Ullarfoss waterfall and walked down to it to check it out. By Ullarfoss you will see an abandoned power station. Bárðardalshraun lava field reaches this pretty little waterfall.
Ullarfoss runs in the fresh spring river Svartá, which flows from Lake Svartárvatn. Svartá river runs into the river Suðurá, which flows into the massive glacial river Skjálfandafljót, which further down creates the historical Goðafoss waterfall right by ring-road 1.
While visiting the 45 km long (90 km both ways) Bárðardalur valley, which is one of the longest inhabited valleys in Iceland, we made several stops on the way.
We visited Lundabrekkukirkja church and got a guided tour of the church by the farmer at Lundarbrekka. Farm churches in Iceland are of special interest to me and I stop by every church I encounter on my travels in my country. Unfortunately, most of them are locked now due to vandalism, so it can be tricky for me to get the key to have a look inside them.
Lundarbrekkukirkja church in Bárðardalur
Lundarbrekkukirkja is the Annex church of the Þverárkirkja church in Laxárdalur valley, which stands by one of the few remaining turf houses in Iceland. Those of you who read my travel-blog might know that I have written travel-blogs about all of the remaining turf houses in Iceland, as they are a passion of mine.
Lundarbrekka was the home of the Viking settler of Bárðardalur and is named after him - Bárður Heyangurs-Bjarnason.
See also: An Elf Woman catches a Ride across Skjálfandfljót River - and Icelandic Folklore from Bárðardalur
A photo exhibition at Kiðagil
We also stopped at the guesthouse Kiðagil, which is the community centre for the inhabitants of Bárðardalur valley, some 20 km away from ring road 1, and checked out the photo exhibitions. There we found a photo exhibition on the first motor vehicle to cross the Sprengisandur highlands.
Four men crossed Sprengisandur in 1933 in a Ford model 1927 - these men were Jón J. Víðis surveyor (top photo), Einar Magnússon college teacher, Valdimar Sveinsson sports teacher, and Sigurður Jónsson driver.
I have told you about the noted Jón J. Víðis, surveyor and the instigator of the view-dials in Iceland in my travel-blog about Þverá turf house, and you will find a memorial on Jón by that majestic turf house, in which he was born.
My husband by the photo exhibition in Kiðagil
Jón J. Víðis was my husband's great uncle and namesake and you can see them both in my photo above. The photos at the exhibition at Kiðagil are from the private collection of Jón J. Víðis and the descriptions are taken from Jón's diary.
You can see the same model of vehicle as the one that first crossed the highlands of Iceland, Sprengisandur, on display at the regional and transport museum Skógasafn in South-Iceland.
At Skógasafn Museum in South-Iceland
At Kiðagil you will also be able to get acquainted with the story of the many outlaws, who lived a hard life on the run in the highlands of Iceland, f.ex. Fjalla-Eyvindur and the Viking Grettir the Strong, who lived for almost 20 years as outlaws under harsh conditions.
A turf outhouse at Kiðagil in Bárðardalur
The guesthouse - community centre Kiðagil is named after a gorge west of Skjálfandafljót river. The travellers passing through the highlands of Iceland, Sprengisandur, were always very happy to reach this gorge - as it meant that they had left behind them the ghosts, elves, trolls, and outlaws of the highlands.
At school it was obligatory to learn by heart a poem by Grímur Thomsen - Sprengisandur, which tells us about the journey of the travellers through Sprengisandur and how they feared the ghosts, outlaws, and elves and longed to be at Kiðagil. It is a very popular poem and we Icelanders often sing it on festive occasions.
The bridge over Skjálfandafljót river in Bárðardalur
To reach Aldeyjarfoss waterfall from ring road 1 close to Goðafoss waterfall, you will have to drive for 41 km into the valley of Bárðardalur. Take road 842 and drive to the end of it, where it changes into mountain road F-26.
Drive for some 4 km on a bumpy gravel road F-26, which in my opinion can be done by 2WD in the summertime, but don't go any further than Aldeyjarfoss as that part of the road is for 4x4 only.
To visit North-Iceland and Aldeyjarfoss you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive for some 475 km. There are many interesting stops on the way so it is best to allow for some 2-3 days to reach this area.
I have seen one guided tour into Bárðardalur valley Aldeyjarfoss | North Iceland Off-Road Waterfalls Tour, which also takes you to a waterfall above Aldeyjarfoss - Hrafnabjargafoss waterfall.
Even though this tour is called Off-road Waterfalls Tour, then we are not going off-road as that is illegal in Iceland. It only means that these waterfalls are off the beaten path.
The picturesque Hrafnabjargafoss Waterfall in Skjálfandafljót River in North-Iceland
The Historical Goðafoss Waterfall in Skjálfandafljót River
An Elf Woman catches a Ride across Skjálfandafljót River in Bárðardalur - an Icelandic Folklore
Have a wonderful time visiting Bárðardalur and Aldeyjarfoss waterfall :)
See more blogs
Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland
Sænautasel Turf House in the Highland of Iceland
The Dynamic Plant Lupine
Secret waterfall on the South Coast
Other interesting blogs
Chasing Waterfalls in IcelandIceland is spectacular in so many ways and Icelandic nature is quite unique with its vast landscape, volcanic activity, geothermal areas, glacier lagoons and sceneries, black sand beaches and spectRead more
Sænautasel Turf House in the Highland of IcelandIn my search for turf houses around Iceland, I visited Sænautasel, which is a rebuilt turf house on Jökuldalsheiði heath in the highland of Iceland. It is, in my opinion, an extremely cute turf hoRead more
The Dynamic Plant LupinePeople have been asking me where to find lupines in Iceland. If you like them you should be able to find them easily in Iceland in summer. They are in bloom and visible almost wherever you drive aroRead more